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Thinking Globally: the Scottish International Week Conference

By: Jonathan Downie    Date: October 30, 2019

Just one of three! marvellous panels

Imagine sitting in the plush surroundings of a leading national bank and getting to listen to the collected wisdom of business leaders from several sectors as they describe how to succeed internationally. Yesterday, I had the privilege of doing just that, when I attended the Scottish International Week conference in the Bank of Scotland building on The Mound in Edinburgh. It was an event that demonstrated the power of Scottish business while explaining just what it takes to succeed in a global economy.

Anyone who was even thinking of taking their business international was spoilt for choice. There were two keynotes: one from the ever encouraging and engaging Ivan McKee, the Scottish Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation and the other from serial entrepreneur and tartan-clad whirlwind, Brian Williamson.

Brian Williamson sharing his wisdom

On top of those talks, there was a one-on-one conversation with Kim McCann of Incremental Group and three panels, with experts from tech and engineering sitting alongside those with experience in how government can help businesses grow.

Practical expertise was very much on show, with advice on such important details as paying attention to labour laws, working with local partners and finding people who are already a few steps ahead of you, so you can benefit from their experience.

What amazed me was that, for the very first time at any export-centred event, the need to create messages that work in your target market was a big theme. Almost all of the speakers with experience in trading abroad emphasised that working in English-only and assuming that messages that worked at home will work abroad are not risks worth taking.

Take Peter Proud, CEO of Cortex Worldwide, who repeatedly emphasised the need to work with transcreation and localisation to make your content work in another market. Good translation, for him, with not about just replacing words but understanding exactly what would work where you are selling.

Likewise, Kirsty Neal, Head of Strategy and Localisation for The Quad Group, argued for businesses to use local expertise and was more than happy to push back at “English-only” culture, as it shows no respect for the clients businesses want to win. If you don’t care enough to provide content in someone’s languge, they don’t take you seriously. Tough but true!

It became clear that for businesses who want to grow, getting language strategy right is a vital part of their growth strategy. They are simply inseparable.

As someone who has previously pointed out how easily that message gets lost, it was heartening to hear it in public from such an incredible cast of business leaders. The whole event was challenging, inspiring and with some good networking opportunities too – even if we could have done with even MORE time to chat.

The Scottish Business Network team did a great job and, if that event is a reflection of the dynamism and ingenuity of the Scottish economy, we’re going to be absolutely fine.

If you were inspired by that event to reach into markets where English isn’t the first language, drop me an email for a chat about creating a language strategy that lets your business fly.

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